Barcelona, Spain, May 3, 2015 / 03:17 am
Barcelona's famous Sagrada Familia Basilica hosted a funeral for the 150 passengers of the Germanwings flight that crashed into the French Alps in March.
Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona presided over the April 27 ceremony. During his homily, Cardinal Sistach told the families of crash victims "we all carry your sorrow and your prayers in our heart."
He also said "we have to have courage to live for the Lord and for our brothers and sisters, hoping that one day we meet again our loved ones in the heavenly Jerusalem." He reflected that "mercy is the supreme act with which God comes to encounter us."
The 150 people who died in the March 24 crash included 52 Spanish nationals as well as 15 German exchange students who had attended a secondary school in Linars del Valles, near Barcelona. An investigation found that the co-pilot deliberately crashed the plane on its flight from Barcelona to Duesseldorf, Germany.
The Barcelona funeral was attended by 600 family members among about 1,500 people. The congregation included representatives of the Jewish, Protestant and Muslim communities. The mourners included King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain; Spain's President Mariano Rajoy; and President Artur Mas of the autonomous region of Catalonia.
Before the ceremony began, friends of the exchange students who died in the crash placed 150 candles on the steps leading up to the church altar in memory of the deceased.
The funeral was held after some parties had questioned whether to have a Catholic funeral.
Father Jose Maria Gil Tamayo, the spokesman for the Spanish Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that the Archbishop of Barcelona met with representatives both of Spain's central administration and of the autonomous government of Catalonia, telling them that the great majority of the Spanish victims were Catholics.
Fr. Gil Tamayo explained that Catholics "celebrate the Eucharist to aid the deceased with our prayers." This means it is "the most important act of prayer on behalf of a Catholic. It's the greatest and best thing we can do that comes from our faith."
He also noted that ministers of other religions would speak at the end of the funeral.
"It's important to highlight this joining together in prayer that the Lord may welcome the dead to his bosom, and at the same time to ask that that the feeling of peace that is born out of sharing faith in God is experienced by everyone and prevent events such as those the victims suffered," Fr. Tamayo added.